Gloucester's newcomers reduce poor Bath to ruins

Gloucester 24 Bath 5
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The Independent Online

They are not exactly renowned for their generosity of spirit, but the dark souls who inhabit the Kingsholm Shed at least refrained from serenading their nearest and dearest with a lusty rendition of "Can We Play You Every Week?" Perhaps it was their way of thanking Bath for donating the Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu to the Gloucester cause, for while this contest was still a going concern, the Pacific Islander was one of the major differences between the teams. There again, they may simply have felt sorry for their opponents. Even Shedheads have a human side.

Bath were once greeted to these parts with a printed message reading: "A warm welcome to our friends from the arsehole of the universe." Kingsholm has never been their favourite venue, and they must like it even less as a result of yesterday's humiliation.

They cannot have expected their former midfielder to mine such a rich vein of form on his first appearance against them, and while they were perfectly aware of Nicky Robinson's artistry as an outside-half, they might reasonably have hoped that Gloucester's major summer signing from Cardiff Blues would take a few games to find the best of himself. Unfortunately for the visitors, the Welshman played beautifully from first to last.

Time and again, these two new recruits hit Bath where it hurt. If Fuimaono-Sapolu was not maximising his own muscular runs with exquisite passes out of the tackle or smithereening poor Ryan Davis with the occasional Samoan special, Robinson was playing the puppeteer with his tactical kicking, stringing the opposition along with subtle punts out of hand. There was also a characteristically forthright performance from the No 8 Gareth Delve, another refugee from the Recreation Ground. What goes around, comes around.

Davis might have kept Bath in the game for longer had he taken some of the points on offer in the first half, but he missed all three of his penalty shots. Last season, they might have picked up some silverware had they been able to rely on a more accurate marksman than Butch James, so the return of Olly Barkley from – that's right, Gloucester – was seen as manna from heaven. Unfortunately for them, Barkley did himself a mischief during the summer and will not be kicking goals for anyone until next month.

In the absence of a little encouragement on the scoreboard, Bath failed miserably to impose themselves on a Gloucester still short of the old you-know-what up front: humpty, nasty, mongrel, call it what you will. Julian Salvi, the visitors' new specialist breakaway from Australia, looked fast and committed, but his work at the breakdown was too much of a one-man show. Salvi must have thought the whole thing a conspiracy when, after making an eye-catching run into Gloucester territory midway through the third quarter, he saw his captain, Michael Claassens, flick a juicy interception pass to James Simpson-Daniel, who promptly set sail on a 70-metre cruise to the goalline.

That put Gloucester 17 points ahead – their first try, after 18 minutes, was also scored by the man frequently described as too imaginative for England – and although Bath's heavyweight work at the set-piece gave them a semblance of control thereafter, they showed little sign of reeling in their hosts. Shontayne Hape, hardly a blinding success at inside centre, scored late in the day after some excellent work from Joe Maddock and Matt Carraro down the right, but even that was trumped by another interception try when Robinson helped himself to a loose pass from Tom Cheeseman.

It was a striking first-up success for Bryan Redpath, who succeeded Dean Ryan as Gloucester's head coach in June. The one-time Scotland captain plays an active role in training and he clearly has the support of his charges. The loose trio of Alasdair Strokosch, Andy Hazell and Delve had the best of it in the loose and there was no shortage of enthusiasm from the two Lawsons, hooker Scott and half-back Rory.

The very best Premiership sides will still spot holes in the cherry and whites, but they may no longer be able to assume a degree of temperamental fragility. For their part, Bath will be keen to put this behind them, along with the next few hours. Today, their co-captains of last season, Michael Lipman and Alex Crockett, appeal against their bans for missing drugs tests in May. Both have resigned from the club, but until this tawdry business is put to bed, there can be no forgetting and no moving on.

Gloucester: Tries Simpson-Daniel 2, Robinson; Conversions Robinson 3; Penalty Robinson. Bath: Try Hape.

Gloucester: T Voyce; C Sharples (F Burns, 86), M Tindall (capt, T Molenaar, 47), E Fuimaono-Sapolu, J Simpson-Daniel; N Robinson, R Lawson (D Lewis, 80); N Wood (A Dickinson, 53), S Lawson (D Dawidiuk, 84), G Somerville (P Capdevielle, 84), D Attwood, A Brown (M Bortolami, 69), A Strokosch, A Hazell (A Satala, 59), G Delve.

Bath: N Abendanon (M Banahan, 53); J Maddock, T Cheeseman, S Hape, M Carraro; R Davis (N Little, 81), M Claassens (capt, S Bemand, 81); D Flatman (D Barnes 34-37 and 69), P Dixon, D Wilson (D Bell, 57), S Hooper (P Short, 57), D Grewcock, A Beattie, J Salvi, B Skirving (J Faamatuainu, 57).

Referee: A Small (London).

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